June Case Spotlight

In August 2020, attorney Randall Mansour received a phone call from a young woman who had been battling severe back problems from multiple surgeries in 2014 and 2016. Recognizing her significant health issues, but still needing a means to pay her bills, she pushed herself to work as much as she could until she began receiving short-term and eventually long-term disability benefits. Despite multiple visits to hospitals and specialist in hopes of getting better and resuming work, she realized that she was not going to be able to work, and certainly not perform the job she was used to. Her doctors agreed, and recommended that she apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. In March of 2020, she submitted her SSD application. Unfortunately, her claim was denied at the application level, and she had only a limited timeframe to appeal.

When she called Disability Law Group, she was met with compassion and care and felt confident that she was at the right place for help in her disability claim. That same day, she hired attorney Randall Mansour – with only 10 days before her appeal deadline. Mr. Mansour and his staff worked swiftly and carefully on her case, and timely filed the appeal on her behalf, even providing Social Security with pertinent updated medical records from her treating doctors. While another denial was issued at the Reconsideration level, Randall immediately filed an appeal, requesting a hearing before an ALJ. Additionally, he was able to assist his client in getting her hearing scheduled promptly by – while all hearing offices remain closed to the public due to the pandemic. Mr. Mansour worked with his dedicated team at Disability Law Group to obtain critical medical evidence, and statements in support of her case from her doctors, in addition to thoroughly prepping the client for her hearing.

Prior to the scheduled hearing, Mr. Mansour realized there was an opportunity to ask for a re-opening of a prior decision that his client had filed almost a year prior to this claim; she had never pursued that prior claim once denied in hopes of being able to return to work. During the hearing, the judge took Mr. Mansour’s arguments into consideration, specifically the chance for a re-opening, considering we had medical records in support of disability since 2016. Additionally, Randall highlighted the claimant’s exceptional work history even despite her first back surgery in 2014 and second back surgery in 2016 at which point her health deteriorated. Despite only being in her mid-thirties, he argued that the claimant’s disabilities began back in 2016, even under Social Security’s strict rules, and have continued to the present. During the hearing, we amended the original onset date to June 2016, with a request for a re-opening of the prior decision.

Within a month of her hearing, we received a Fully Favorable Decision in which the ALJ agreed to the re-opening with the amended onset date – meaning tens of thousands of dollars of additional back-pay benefits owed to his client. With this decision comes not only the validation for the client that she should not have been working after 2016, but also the financial relief and insurance to help cover her critical doctor’s visits.

If you or someone you know are suffering from any physical impairments or mental health, contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We will work with you, and alongside your doctors, to ensure all evidence needed is received. You can rely on our team at Disability Law Group from start to finish to provide you with the expert advice and compassionate representation and the benefits you deserve.

May Case Spotlight

In May of 2021, Disability Law Group partner Mandy Kelly received a win on one of her most difficult cases to date.  After several years of fighting, Disability Law Group was able to obtain service-connected disability payments for her client retroactive to 1995!  Many Veterans reach out to Disability Law group seeking assistance with obtaining their VA disability monthly compensation, but many others contact our attorneys because they are not happy with the date that their benefits were paid back to or their ‘entitlement date’ assigned by the VA.

In this case, Mandy Kelly’s client was discharged from the military in 1995 after treating several times during service for anxiety and self-induced vomiting. The Veteran filed for service connected benefits within a year of his discharge. Filing within a year of discharge would normally allow for a veteran to be granted benefits retroactive to the day after he was discharged from the military, but the VA did something that is unfortunately all too common – they sent him on a VA Compensation and Pension examination to confirm he was still suffering from anxiety. The doctor, although provided with proof of several years of documentation confirming the Veteran suffers from anxiety, determined he was not suffering from any signs of mental health symptoms.

Therefore, the Veteran’s claim was initially denied by the VA for not having a current diagnosis. The Veteran, feeling defeated and lacking the knowledge on how to fight the Department of Veteran’s Affairs alone, received the decision and failed to file an appeal in a timely manner.  Years later in 2015, the Veteran refiled again for benefits and was immediately granted service connection, but only retroactive to 2015.  After receiving this decision, he hoped that there was something that could be done to allow for the effective date back to when he initially filed. Upon being referred to Disability Law Group, he immediately had a free consultation with attorney Mandy Kelly. After a thorough review of his file, Mandy Kelly found the evidence she was looking for to support that the Veteran was entitled to an earlier effective date. The basis for an earlier effective date is that under the provisions of 38 C.F.R. § 3.156(b), VA was in “constructive possession” of relevant VA inpatient and outpatient treatment records within one year of the otherwise final 1995 Rating Decision.

A Board of Veterans’ Appeals hearing was held in November 2020 and all legal arguments were presented. The Veteran provided testimony and was represented by Mandy Kelly during his hearing before the Judge. Ultimately, the Judge agreed with Mandy Kelly and granted the Veteran his retroactive benefits back to 1995! After years of struggling with not only his own mental health symptoms, but also dealing with the earlier rejection by the VA and the agency’s contracted doctor, the Veteran received the relief and monetary compensation through the VA that he deserves.

If you or someone you know was recently granted service connection for PTSD, anxiety, or any other service connected condition, and believe you are entitled to an earlier effective date, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

April Case Spotlight

In the early part of 2020, attorney Erika Riggs was contacted by a woman from Troy, Michigan, who had been looking on google for the best attorney to help her win her disability case. After reading reviews on many disability law firms, she chose to hire Disability Law Group. She knew from the beginning that she did not want to go through the disability process alone, and needed a law firm that would be available to talk with her, carefully review her file, answer all questions she had, and treat her with compassion and respect. She found all of those qualities in Disability Law Group.

Attorney Erika Riggs immediately got to work on her case, explaining what to expect from the very start and strategizing ways to help her chances of being approved as quickly as possible. The team at Disability Law Group prepared and submitted her application for Social Security Disability benefits, and diligently followed-up on the case. Mrs. Riggs believed that her client would be working if she was able, but that her medical conditions have become too severe and debilitating for her. Unfortunately, her client suffered from severe neck pain and numbness, trouble with her balance, bladder problems, and depression; she found herself needing to complete physical therapy, chiropractic care, and nightly bladder installations, after being tried on a variety of medications that only offered her temporary relief. Erika always made herself available via email correspondences, text messages and phone calls to ensure the records were up-to-date with all medical records and supportive documents.

While the vast majority of cases are denied at the initial application level, Attorney Riggs and the team at Disability Law Group made it their priority to ensure all evidence was received, to help increase the chances of approval at the initial level or as quickly as possible. Thankfully, by January of 2021, Disability Law Group confirmed that Erika’s client was approved at the initial application level. This decision allowed for the client to receive back-pay benefits in the form of a lump sum to the client, as well as Medicare insurance coverage. Here is what the client had to say in her review:

Client Review:

It is my honor to write a recommendation for Erika Riggs and her law firm, Disability Law Group. It was with great trepidation that I apply for Social Security Disability. Leaving a job I loved after 22 years, going through the seemingly arduous task of applying for SSD, learning to live as a disabled person was so overwhelming to me to me I could barely think about it. A friend recommended I get an attorney. I found Erika through google, and I am so happy I did.

Erika and I spoke at length on the phone, she clearly explained what I would need to do and what she would do for me. When the conversation ended I felt sure she would work very hard on my behalf, and she did.

Every phone call I made to her was promptly returned, her assistant was professional, always helpful and accommodating. They kept me informed of every detail as we moved through the process. I first spoke with Erika in January 2020, I had just left my job, my beloved sister had recently passed away and I was living in extreme pain. She was so kind, so understanding and so determined. Two weeks ago I was approved for SSD. I never met Erika face to face, but I feel I have known her forever. I cannot recommend her strongly enough.

———

If you or someone you know are suffering from pain or other serious problems that keep you from being able to work and affect your ability to function normally, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We pride ourselves on helping disabled individuals receive disability benefits as quickly as possible. Whether you have been denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with an attorney for a free consultation to understand your rights and get the representation that you deserve.

March Case Spotlight

In July 2019, attorney Randall Mansour received a phone call from a woman who had been battling serious health problems, including chronic low back pain, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and autism. Recognizing significant health issues, she tried to continue working as a teacher but ultimately was laid-off as her employer was unable to continue providing accommodations as they did in the past. Unfortunately, her mental and physical ailments made it difficult to sustain that type of work as she continued to be absent from work, even on a weekly basis. After talking with many doctors and her family, she knew it was time to consult with a disability attorney, but she wanted to make sure she was dealing with someone reputable who truly cares about their clients and only specializes in this type of law.

When she called Disability Law Group, she was met with kindness and compassion; she hired attorney Mansour after their initial free consultation and began the process of awaiting for her hearing with him by her side. Mr. Mansour was able to obtain a hearing for the claimant within 6 months of her appeal. More importantly, the staff at Disability Law Group assisted the client from start to finish, from the application stage, then the appeal through the hearing level. Randall was able to assist his client in getting her hearing scheduled right away by opting into a phone hearing, instead of postponing and waiting for a live in-person hearing. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, all hearing offices have been closed to the public, and began offering phone and now video hearings. Additionally, Attorney Mansour also worked with his case manager and dedicated team at Disability Law Group to obtain critical medical evidence and statements in support of her case from her doctors in a team effort, and then thoroughly prepared his client for her hearing.

Mr. Mansour drafted a detailed brief with an analysis of his client’s health problems and treatment; he provided the Judge with two supportive questionnaires (one physical and one mental) about her impairments and limitations from her doctors. During the hearing, the Judge asked about the earnings after her alleged onset date of February 2019; however, Attorney Mansour and his client were prepared and raised the argument that the earnings were not considered earned income, but rather employer-provided benefits with sick pay. Instead of potentially losing several months of back pay benefits if this amount were deemed income from work, we were able to secure and present documentation confirming that the amount reported was indeed benefits rather than earned income.

Ultimately, this evidence helped save this client thousands of dollars in potential monthly benefits. The ALJ considered the woman’s testimony, treatment notes, evidence submitted including employer statements and statements from her providers that Disability Law Group helped obtain and presented. All of documentation and evidence were consistent and re-assured the fact that she was unable to work. By February 2021, less than one month from the date of the hearing, both the claimant and counsel had received the good news: Fully Favorable Decision. With this decision comes not only the validation for her that she could not have continued working, but also the financial relief and insurance to help cover her critical doctor’s visits and keep a roof over her head.

Disability benefits can be a much deserved lifeline for many people in need. If you or someone you know are suffering from any physical impairments or mental health, contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We will work continuously from start to finish providing you with excellent representation and the benefits you deserve.

February Case Spotlight

In November of 2019, attorney Erika Riggs was contacted by a woman from Harrison Township, Michigan, who had been referred to her from another attorney after receiving a letter from Social Security that her son’s disability benefits was reviewed and would soon end. Social Security decided to review her son’s disability case even though he was found disabled years prior. Social Security periodically reviews the claimant’s medical impairment(s) to determine if the disabling condition(s) has continued. If Social Security determines that the person is no longer disabled or blind, then benefits will stop.

While there are a number of reasons why the Social Security Administration could review a disability case to determine ongoing entitlement to disability benefits, they will typically do so regardless of a reason at least once every three years if the condition is expected to improve. However, if the disabling condition is not anticipated to improve, Social Security may still review the case but typically only every five to seven years. Social Security should reach out to you to obtain any updated information about your condition(s) using form SSA-454 called a ‘Continuing Disability Review Report’ or form SSA-455 which is a ‘Disability Update Report’ that can be completed online. Other factors that may affect entitlement to disability benefits may also be reviewed, including income, resources, and living arrangements, for example, to determine whether benefits should continue, stop, or be changed in any way. In some cases, the claimant may be responsible for paying back benefits, called an overpayment, if it is determined that benefits were improperly paid.

In any case, it is important to have an experienced, compassionate disability attorney on your side to help you win and keep the disability benefits that you deserve. If Social Security deems that the disabling condition has ended, you will have appeal rights contained in correspondence from the Social Security Administration. In this case, the disability benefits had recently been denied on October of 2019 and they had only 60 days to file an appeal called a ‘Request for Reconsideration’ at this stage. Attorney Erika Riggs carefully reviewed all of the documentation, medical records and notice of Cessation of benefits they had received from Social Security. However, this client desperately needed ongoing benefits – both monthly financial support and insurance that they had been accustomed to in order to continue seeing his doctors and maintaining treatment. Attorney Riggs agreed to represent the woman’s son pro bono in his claim for continued disability benefits so that he could continue to see his doctors, keep up with the medical treatment, and receive the ongoing support that he desperately needed.

Immediately, Erika got to work on her client’s case. She filed the appeal, prepared new medical evidence and updated his file to make sure that all the supportive information was received; she then submitted all documents over to Social Security and began following-up with his case examiner with Social Security’s Disability Determination Services. Next, Social Security scheduled her client for a consultative examination where a doctor contracted through the Social Security Administration would evaluate him. Attorney Riggs explained what to expect at this examination and helped ease their nerves about the entire process. Shortly after this examination took place, Disability Law Group received notice that the case was approved, and that Erika’s client would continue to receive his monthly benefits and insurance without any interruption. This decision provided immeasurable relief and comfort to both the client and his family who could now focus on other, more important things like his health and healing without worrying about an overpayment, additional appeals, or losing critical monthly benefits.

If you or someone you know are suffering from pain or other serious problems that keep you from being able to work and affect your ability to function normally, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We pride ourselves on helping disabled individuals receive disability benefits as quickly as possible. Whether you have been denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with an attorney for a free consultation to understand your rights and get the representation that you deserve.

Disability Law Group: January Case Spotlight

Attorney Mandy Kelly was contacted by a female veteran suffering from severe PTSD, chronic pain, and significant breathing issues which, unfortunately, rendered her unable to work. She filed for service-connected disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but, like most veterans, she was denied.  Prior to entering the service, she was a smart, healthy young woman who was looking forward to serving her country, but she exited with more pain than anyone should endure in a lifetime.

Feeling discouraged and ready to give up, she was told to contact an attorney who specializes in veterans’ disability cases to see if she had a case worth pursuing. This is when she called and reached out to attorney Mandy Kelly for help. After her free consultation with Mandy, she felt confident that she had a strong case and now an attorney who could help her fight to get the benefits she deserved. She immediately hired Attorney Kelly to represent her and pursue her appeal.

The veteran’s hearing before a Board of Veterans’ Appeals Judge was scheduled for February of 2020.  During her hearings, she was finally able to explain to the Judge all of the pain she has been going through since her time in service.  She was able to express how her exposures in service caused her to suffer from asthma. She also explained how her experiences in service caused her to develop severe PTSD. She described feeling as though her chronic pain was not addressed during her active duty time, even after she begged her superiors for help. With the assistance of Mandy Kelly, and the help of her supportive doctors, she was able to obtain numerous medical nexus opinions corroborating that her conditions began in service.  Every one of her specialists supported her connections when the proper medical literature was supplied to the doctors by Disability Law Group.

Ultimately the Board found that the weight of the evidence was in favor of service connection for all of her conditions. After years of waiting for justice and validation, this veteran client was finally awarded service connection for asthma, PTSD, and chronic pain. Additionally, she was granted individual unemployability with permanent and total status, retroactive to 2013!

If you or someone you know are suffering from PTSD, chronic pain or other serious health problems that you believe were caused by something you were exposed to in-service, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

Disability Law Group: November Case Spotlight

In October 2019, attorney Randall Mansour received a phone call from a woman who had been battling serious health problems, including severe migraines, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, deep vein thrombosis, and hypertension. She had also recently began to experience depression due to her worsening health and inability to work or function like she used to. Recognizing significant health issues and trauma was no new territory for her as she spent many years working as a certified nurse assistant, but she was young and did not want to accept the fact that she should not be working at any job. Although she was experiencing significant health problems while working as a nurse assistant, she tried to transition to another field of work as a gas station manager.  Unfortunately, her physical ailments made it difficult to sustain that type of work, as she continued to be absent from work weekly. After talking with many doctors and her family, she knew it was time to consult with a disability attorney, but she wanted to make sure she was dealing with someone reputable who truly cares about their clients and only specializes in this type of work. 

When she called Disability Law Group she was met with compassion and empathy; she hired attorney Mansour after their initial free consultation and began the process of waiting for her hearing with him by her side. Mr. Mansour was able to obtain a hearing for the claimant less than 12 months from her initial application. More importantly, the Disability Law Group assisted the client from start to finish, from the application stage, then the appeals, then the hearing. Randall was able to assist his client in getting her scheduled right away through a phone hearing, instead of postponing and waiting for a live in-person hearing. Additionally, he also worked with his case manager and dedicated team at Disability Law Group to obtain critical medical evidence and statements in support of her case from her doctors, in addition to thoroughly prepping the client for her hearing.

In his brief, not only did Mr. Mansour provide a detailed analysis of his client’s health problems and treatment, he argued that her conditions were so severe they met or medically equaled the relevant Listing, and requested that the ALJ award benefits by finding her to be “disabled” pursuant to Listing 4.11 for Chronic venous insufficiency of a lower extremity with incompetency or obstruction of the deep venous system. This Listing requires medical documentation of many specific criteria, such as adherence to treatment for at least 3 consecutive months along with:

  • A. Extensive brawny edema involving at least two-thirds of the leg between the ankle and knee or the distal one-third of the lower extremity between the ankle and hip

Or

  • B. Superficial varicosities, stasis dermatitis, and either recurrent ulceration or persistent ulceration that has not healed following at least 3 months of prescribed treatment.

During the hearing, it was revealed the records showed earnings after her alleged onset date of May 2019; however, we made the argument the earnings were not considered earned income, but rather employer-provided benefits. Instead of potentially losing several months of back pay, we respectfully requested additional time to provide documentation from her previous employer. The judge allowed 14 additional days to provide her with the documentation. Mr. Mansour and his staff worked diligently to retrieve that documentation, which saved the client thousands of dollars in potential monthly benefits.

After careful review, the ALJ agreed that Randall’s client was disabled, finding the letters from her employers and reports obtained from her doctors that Disability Law Group carefully drafted for her case to be “persuasive.” By October 2020, less than one month from the date of the hearing, both the claimant and counsel had received the good news: Fully Favorable Decision. With this decision comes not only the validation that she should not have been working, but also the financial relief and insurance to help cover her critical treatments. The client hopes to obtain full-time employment again if her conditions and symptoms subside, and with proper treatment and care, this could be obtainable in the near future.

If you or someone you know are suffering from any physical impairments, specifically trouble with sitting and standing due to lower extremity problems and/or mental health conditions, contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied and need to file a request for reconsideration or an appeal, or if you would like help from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

Disability Law Group: October Case Spotlight

In November of 2019, attorney Erika Riggs was contacted by a 30 year old woman from Ypsilanti, Michigan, who was having a difficult time finding a reputable attorney to take her case on appeal. Her claim for Social Security Disability benefits had been denied many times despite appeal after appeal. She had just received a denial by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) following a hearing where she was represented by an attorney from a different law firm. She felt discouraged by the decision, and on top of it all she was suffering from serious back pain with numbness, tingling and weakness affecting both of her legs and feet. What made matters even worse for her – she was facing homelessness by being unable to work due to her medical conditions, and unable to pay her mortgage payments.

When she called Mrs. Riggs, attorney and partner at Disability Law Group, she had only one more month left before the deadline to file an appeal from the ALJ’s decision. Following a denial, or an Unfavorable Decision from an ALJ, the next step in the appeal process is called a ‘Request for Review’ to the Appeals Council (AC). The AC is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, and is made-up of approximately 53 Administrative Appeals Judges with 44 Appeals Officers, and several hundred support personnel that assist the Judges and Officers along the way. The wait time at the AC level can range from many months to longer than two years for a decision with approximately 144,000 cases reviewed and decided in 2019. The AC may grant, deny, or dismiss a request for review, but the majority of requests are denied at this level.

Not every law firm, including those who specialize in disability cases, take appeals at the AC level or beyond. At Disability Law Group, our attorneys specialize only in disability and take cases at the AC and beyond, to include the US District Court level of appeals. Erika carefully reviewed the Unfavorable decision by the ALJ and the medical records previously submitted and agreed to take her case. Acting quickly with no time to waste – Mrs. Riggs quickly filed the ‘Request for Review’ at the Appeals Council along with a brief in support. In her brief, Erika pointed out the evidence supporting that her client should be considered disabled at Step 3 of the sequential evaluation process – the step that addresses the Listings enumerated by Social Security.

Specifically, Mrs. Riggs argued that her client’s lumbar spinal condition with stenosis resulted in pseudoclaudication established by MRI findings and manifested by chronic pain and weakness with an inability to ambulate effectively, thereby showing that Listing 1.04 was reasonably met or medically equalled. Further, she pointed out errors in the ALJ’s decision when evaluation the Listing at Step 3 of the sequential evaluation process, including neglecting to properly analyze her client’s medical records and hearing testimony that correspond to the relevant Listing. She concluded her argument by requesting a medical expert opinion evidence evaluating all record evidence with an interrogatory addressing whether her client’s lumbar spinal condition met or medically equaled Listing 1.04. Ultimately, the AC agreed with Erika’s arguments in support and determined that the ALJ failed her duty to consider relevant evidence, issuing a Remand for further development, including an opinion from a Medical Expert.

In less than one month from the AC’s Remand Order, attorney Riggs and her staff worked swiftly to prepare and update the evidence of record and a Medical Expert Interrogatory was requested and received. The ALJ immediately issued an on-record Fully Favorable Decision based on Erika’s arguments and evidence in support without even requiring another hearing, finding that the claimant’s spinal condition met the criteria of Listing 1.04. This award of Social Security Disability benefits meant more than 3 years’ worth of past due benefits, monthly disability payments, and Medicare coverage for the client. Notably, the same day that Disability Law Group received the Fully Favorable Decision, Erika and her staff immediately submitted a dire need request to release her client’s back-pay benefits promptly so that she could keep her home, and not have to worry about foreclosure.

In her review she provided upon hearing of the good news, her client gave us 5-stars and wrote: “Erika Riggs was absolutely amazing! She was pivotal to my SSDI appeal approval. She was with me every step of the way and let me know I was not alone. She took the time to answer all my questions, no matter how frivolous. She even called me on her day off to tell me I was approved. I wish Erika could represent me in all my legal battles.”

If you or someone you know are suffering from pain or other serious problems that keep you from being able to work and affect your ability to function normally, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

Disability Law Group: September Case Spotlight

In July of 2017, attorney Mandy Kelly was contacted by a grieving widow of a Vietnam Veteran.  Her husband had served on active duty from 1967 until 1970 with service in the Republic of Vietnam. Unfortunately, 3 years prior, her husband unexpectedly died from complications he had suffered from his leukemia. She immediately filed for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  One way of obtaining DIC benefits as a surviving spouse is establishing service connection for the cause of a Veteran’s Death.  In this case, the widow believed that her husband’s leukemia was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam.  

Service connection is available for certain diseases as presumptively associated with exposure to herbicide agents. All chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia) are capable of presumptive service connection. While the Veteran died because of leukemia, specifically CML, this type of leukemia is not subject to presumptive service connection statutes. Thus, as many veterans, and their spouses, have experienced in similar situations, the VA denied her claim.  She tried to appeal on her own, but was denied yet again.  This poor widow was discouraged and ready to give up when she reached out to attorney Mandy Kelly for help. 

After her free consultation with Mandy she knew she needed an attorney to help her fight to get the benefits she deserved on behalf of her husband, and she immediately hired her to represent her and pursue another appeal. Mrs. Kelly worked with the widow to obtain the proper medical evidence, including literature and 3 medical opinions to support her claim that the Veteran’s leukemia was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange. In a December 2019 BVA hearing, Mandy Kelly represented the widow before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and by January 2020 the BVA issued a  Decision granting her client DIC benefits.

The Board found that the weight of the evidence was in favor of service connection as directly due to presumed herbicide agent exposure. With two medical opinions from the Veteran’s hematologist in November 2014 and September 2017, and another opinion from a private physician in October 2017, and the advocacy by Attorney Mandy Kelly from Disability Law Group, the Veterans Law Judge decided to grant benefits and overturned the previous VA decisions. These private medical opinions concluded that the Veteran’s CML, and subsequent death, were at least as likely as not caused by in-service exposure to herbicides. Specifically, the physicians first explained that CML is an “overlap disease” between myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and myeloproliferative neoplasms.

Secondly, the private opinions referenced credible research from the Aplastic Anemia and MDS foundation which concluded that exposure to herbicides put patients at an increased risk for developing MDS. On this basis, the physicians explained that as exposure to herbicides increases an individual’s risk for MDS, it also increases an individual’s risk for developing CML. Ultimately, the Board was convinced that these three private opinions provided sufficient persuasive evidence of a nexus between the Veteran’s cause of death from CML and presumed herbicide agent exposure in Vietnam.

If you or someone you know are suffering with the effects of leukemia or other serious health problems that you believe were caused by something you were exposed to in service, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

Disability Law Group: August Case Spotlight

In February of 2020, attorney Randall Mansour received a phone call from a woman who had been battling serious health problems, including Parkinson’s disease. She had also recently overcome breast cancer, but continued to suffer from the residual effects of treatment, and she began to experience depression due to her worsening health and inability to work or function like she used to. Recognizing significant health issues and trauma was no new territory for her as she spent many years working as an emergency room technician; but she was young and did not want to accept the fact that she should not be working at any job. After talking with many doctors and her family, she knew it was time to consult with a disability attorney, but she wanted to make sure she was dealing with someone reputable who truly cares about their clients and doesn’t make people feel like another number.

When she called Disability Law Group she was immediately met with kindness and respect; she hired attorney Mansour after their initial free consultation and began the process of awaiting for her hearing with him by her side. Her initial hearing had been scheduled for April of 2020, but had to be postponed due to COVID-19. Fortunately, Randall was able to assist his client in getting her hearing re-scheduled right away; he also worked with his case manager and dedicated team at Disability Law Group to obtain critical medical evidence and statements in support of her case from her doctors, in addition to documentation from her previously submitted Long Term Disability claim; he drafted pre-hearing briefs to help the Administrative Law Judge assigned to her case better understand her disability and our theory for granting her benefits.

In his brief, not only did Mr. Mansour provide a detailed analysis of his client’s health problems and treatment, he argued that her conditions were so severe they met or medically equaled the relevant Listing, and requested that the ALJ award benefits by finding her to be “disabled” pursuant to Listing 11/06 for Parkinsonian syndrome. This Listing requires medical documentation of many specific criteria, such as adherence to treatment for at least 3 consecutive months along with:

  • Disorganization of motor function in 2 extremities, resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use of the upper extremities, or
  • Marked limitation in physical functioning, and in one of the following:
    • Understanding, remembering, or applying information;
    • Interacting with others;
    • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace;
    • Adapting or managing oneself.

At first, the ALJ denied the request which could have resulted in a delay in the process. However, attorney Mansour immediately requested additional reports from the claimant’s doctors, recent visit notes, and submitted an updated request for an On-the-Record grant of was incapable of sustaining any gainful employment due to her worsening health problems and neurological deficits. In fact, working could result in an additional decline in her overall physical and mental health state.

After careful review, the ALJ agreed that Randall’s client was disabled, finding the reports obtained from her doctors that Disability Law Group carefully drafted for her case to be “persuasive.” By July of 2020, both the claimant and counsel had received the good news: Fully Favorable Decision. With this decision comes not only the validation that she should not have been working, but also the financial relief and insurance to help cover her critical treatments. She is grateful to be able to focus on her own health so she can regain better functioning and quality of life in hopes that one day she will be able to return to work, helping others with serious health problems and crises like she did for so many years.

If you or someone you know are suffering with the effects of cancer or other serious health problems that limit your ability to function or work, such as Parkinson’s disease and/or mental health conditions, contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied and need to file a request for reconsideration or an appeal, or if you would like help from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.